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tv   After Words  CSPAN  September 13, 2015 12:00pm-12:56pm EDT

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you as i think there are even are meant of assumptions that most americans would not believe and i would invite to read your book. first of all, i think are americans who don't believe people live off with the united nations described as extreme poverty in the world. they think people who were these little children on tv starving to death in malnourished and they run out and get their check book so they can send them money. they don't believe people of the united states live off of $2 per person per day. so that is one enlightening part of your book. 3 million children. another thing they won't leave is most americans according to
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u.n. that spoke to the general social survey said that 60% to 70% of americans think we have to provide more support to the poor and yet when you say we need to provide more welfare assistance to them, people do more and think that it's not true. another normative assumption that i'm so happy you wrote the book is most people by people who need public support is being folks ronald reagan described, the women who had 80 names and 30 addresses. >> she was quite a character.
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most of that is when she was not true. years later and was quite an impressive recipient. >> the most amazing thing is people who are poor want to work. i am just on a daily basis beaten over the head by my colleagues with the notion the certain ne'er-do-well, lazy people who don't want to work, who are constantly lacking in personal responsibility and they don't want to work. they won a game the system and the yearbook, you describe the eight folks here as people
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connected to the workforce in some style throughout your studies. let's start with my first question. you start the book out by describing -- we talk about the welfare reformers touting the success and you said i need some clarification that 58% of low-income single mothers were employed by 2000 after the touted welfare reform of 1996. and then you say 75% of them were working in child poverty rates so four consecutive years
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after 1996. democrats and republicans taking big to relapse and have been since then talking how well off the welfare leaders were. and then we have your book. tell us what happens. >> i want to give you a little bit of background so you know how i came to the topic. prior to welfare reform i traveled the country asking welfare recipients how they made ends meet. so i collected edges from hundreds of single mothers and told the story of my first book about how welfare wasn't paying enough to survive so you had to work as well but you couldn't tell the welfare office said they would take away the money. ever since then i've had this mental calculator in my head. after six years of asking people
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about their balance sheets, it's just automatic. a study poverty for quite a while and then i went and studied urban families. in 2000 i came back to the topic in baltimore interviewing young adult and i began running across household for whom there is no visible means of support. if you don't baltimore come in the chipset that in the shadow, the prison downtown, this old dickensian looking structure. alicia just had a baby three weeks ago and came to the house and she was visibly depressed. there is no food in the house. only a table with one broke and
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share and more worrying. three -week-old baby. she is having trouble supporting the baby's head. we sat alicia, i think we need to interview you again because i was concerned about the baby i thought maybe we could bring over some formula. so they gave her the $50 for used and low and behold it came the next day. her hair had been permed. and she was on her way out to look for jobs. what we realize in that little moment before i met my co-author, luke schafer, the numbers guy who analyzes the
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government survey. but i realized not only was it possible that group of americans were living on income so low we didn't even as the nation think it was possible. if you have no cash in the developing world, there is a rich barter economy that you can subsist on. it is not a pretty story, but a lot of transactions occur without cash. here we are in the world leading capitalist nation and to not have cash is to almost not exist, to not be a citizen. but that little infusion of cash, alicia felt a sense of
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efficacy that allowed her a modest way. this is where the negative $2 a day came, run into alicia. but then followed her over the next two years, watching her struggle was the inspiration for this jury that is now bled us to four other cities and a lot of number crunching to tell the story from a statistical establishing a national portrait of $2 at a poverty but also a deep inhuman when we felt it was necessary to tell the story so americans could think through what does this mean. >> well, that's $2 a day didn't interview the 1.5 million families do you say that the subsistence levels, but she did make an effort to go beyond your experience in.
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you have beyond appalachia into the delta, the mississippi delta in cities like chicago and cleveland a new event reference one of my cities, milwaukee, wisconsin together these data to tell us what it's like to live off $2 per person per day. what we found that the recent recession is that snap benefits, formally called food stamps are the only form of income some people had any document that in this book so that people who have snap, but they didn't have money. so you sort of talked about the difficulty that provided, even
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though we do know that it only income that presented. can you tell us a little bit about nothing but snap. >> half of the $2 a day poor get snap although they are eligible. so the half that do, you can see the data the exact same rise in household living without cash. so that's one interesting thing you can see this monotonic rise in the number of people who are telling the food stamp office, i have no income. >> but in a way, it works.
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i say to my colleagues at the time, this is a capitalist society and while it's not pleasant to the great recession we had in 2008, it is something we can depend on happening in the kind of economy we have so when there is no work but have a social safety net and snap served as a social safety net to provide people with something. >> we see that in a recession with our statistical analysis, we see a set is snap in the great recession. so if we counted snap as cash, which you may or may not want to do because of the reasons you know because you've read the book they would cut them out of $2 a day poverty in half. you see that one is no increase
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in $2 a day poverty and in many ways is really the only social safety net we have left and it is incredibly important program. the reason i say when you don't have cash in your kid named snacks for school, a uniform, but pack from a change of underwear, you need something fungible. the bad part is that it is not fungible. so families do trade in snap for cash to provide essential goods for their kids to keep the lights on in jackson, mississippi, one of the only ways you can keep the air conditioning on his resolve the vast majority of snap. what's the problem? snape doesn't cover the fruit of family name so what you see in
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cases where families are selling snap or three weeks out of the month if they have anything is even a 7-cent packs of ramen for every meal. you can imagine the impact on hypertension and obesity and so one. >> diabetes. >> all that sodium. >> host: well, you know, so you did not find that it was just a matter of purse and all responsibility and on page 45 of your book but a lack of personal responsibility blame it on the lack of personal responsibility and structural forces at play
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here and then you start talking about how service sector employers often engage in practices that the middle-class professional would never accept and set people up for failure. so here we are. we've got willing workers, people who want to work according to you, people who don't want to go on welfare according to your book. we talk about one of your recipients who refuses to go down to apply and they want to work but said the jobs themselves set people up for failure. can you talk about that. >> one nice thing about having government statistics as you can play the stories the numbers off against each other.
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you are talking about randall cormack in cleveland, ohio is still will not go on tanf. she sees herself as a worker. during the time and cleveland would begin to ask who are the $2 a day courier and what can predict a spell of $2 a day poverty? are these long-term dependent who fallen off welfare rolls are raised another story. only the prior two years, 10% had claimed even a nickel from the tennis program that 70% during the last year had an adult working in the form of labor market. our story is one of people wanting to work, taking pride in the work status, thinking of welfare as something
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unacceptable, something that violates their sense of who they are pretty at the bottom of the labor market has become so degraded and eating out efficiencies from labor says blake on call contracts recommit caught in any time could not be guaranteed hours. at the foot traffic slows you are sent home. >> just-in-time scheduling. so can you give us some examples of this? >> just-in-time scheduling is when you can't predict what your schedule is going to look like for more than 48 hours. if you are a mom with kids, it is very hard to pair the jobs of
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parenting. the other problem in the full-time see how our contract is you never know what your income is going to be. it's impossible to plan. in predict the ability means it's difficult to take a second job. so working double shifts becomes almost impossible when you can't predict what shift your beyond the first job. >> they say to you you are a day care worker, you are to be on-call for saturday at noon so therefore you can't babysit, do hair on saturday afternoon because you have to be available to go to work. if they don't call you to go to work, you can't get paid. you can predict your income. these are regular work crack
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says that even some of the large employers. you also talk about safe working conditions, you know, working. >> jennifer fernandez may be the worst job in the book. she gets a custodial job for on enough three years, just got these two little kids. she goes to work for chicago city and affairs choose cleaning corporate apartment buildings but then the workflows. winterset man suddenly the only contracts are in only contracts aren't foreclosed houses on chicago's south side. there is no heat in the psalms, no power. the crew from chicago city
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arrived. they unlock the door. there might be vermin. they never know whether that is used as a shelter for wildlife or a drug den. there's broken glass and expect to clean up these places. they are scrapping and the skin is falling off and of course jennifer began suffering from asthma because of all the mold and other toxins she is exposed to. so then she gets sick. the kids get sick and they end up in a cycle of illness. as she comes to work anyway, but employers is so that the rest of the crew said. you go home. they give her less than full-time hours so by the end of her work she is only half time
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hours. she knows it will take months to find another job. so she lay chicago city so she will have time to search for another job. meanwhile the whole family has been in and out of the hospital exacerbated by jennifer sort of ringing sickness. >> the middle-class workers wouldn't tolerate this because they have worked or traction than someone. wage theft. it is something that we just say hey, if they had that her character, if they would accept personal responsibility, they would you well in certain corporate note they don't have a pension. we know often they don't have health insurance, but these are
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things people don't think about. they just take a safe working environment for granted. what is wage theft? >> , in practices with hotel maids. so you are told you have to clean her room before you clock in. so you put in 45 minutes before you're even allowed to clock in and then you are paid minimum wage. this practice is where you are paid subminimum wager you're forced to clock in or clock out in ways that don't capture the full day. you are working overtime and this also happened to jennifer at the spot downtown. she was working 10, 12 hours a day and not being paid overtime. wage theft is a huge problem in our country and something not often talked about, the very real. >> what talk about being -- talk
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about things that middle-class families may take for granted or maybe not. personal days, sick leave. i want to talk specifically about the employee of the month award he that you talk about in the book cited for being employee of the month. >> guest: she's an amazing woman pattern name is ray mccormack paid she has a beautiful little daughter and she works at kmart, let's kmart even though kmart never gives her more than part-time hours. but kmart closes down when a super wal-mart comes to the neighborhood. so she searches and finds a job at wal-mart.
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again, i can't emphasize enough how important work is in the lives of these folks. she decided she's going to memorize all the bar code to produce items because that takes the longest to key in. so she devises this method. by the way, this woman is so poor and has been so neglected by the time she's made a result she no longer have teeth. we are talking a deep report young woman from a deeply poor family. she reads the bar code numbers to the recording device on her cell phone and when she goes home at night she turns it on endless repeat as she sleeps and she's able to memorize an amazing amount of information. she prefers the day shift because she likes to work hard in the night shift pays a dollar more but she doesn't like to be
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bored. she has so many medications that she has a special place in the employee locker room to keep her mad and the bosses know sometimes she has to go get her medicine, especially her asthma medicine, but she is working and she's living with extended family in kind of an exploit a situation where she has to turn over a lot of her pay in return for use of the car. so her pay is supposed to cover the use of car and gas and she's just need the payment. so she just gas up the car and make the payment to the extended family member, george, who is sort of her landlord. she gets in the car monday morning and there is no gas. she has no money left.
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george says i spent all of your money paying the rent and doing other things. so she is frantic. she is furious. she is up she is up in detroit and in detroit in the store's father went down in parma. so she calls her manager after winning to play the mud fights for six months. she said if he can't find a ride or a way to get to work, just don't bother. she lost her job. >> host: she lost a minimum wage job and she didn't have a personal day that all of us take for granted if we were to have this view. >> guest: there is no good. that's a critical feature. people who have lives that require good in a low-wage labor market increasingly has no
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reason because there's 10 people lined up for your job. >> host: we talked a little bit -- we talked a lot about the housing situation of people who are part of a $2 a day per person or subject to two. a lot of them don't look with other family members. you've got some poor people who live with other poor people. they are able to share a house and make it. so what did you find in your research? guess the back of nature appeared family is the first line of defense. we spent quite a bit of time talking about paul who comes in the shelter in the storm for this extended family who are all in the pizza business together when all of the stores the bus
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at the same time. here is a whole family business that goes belly up in 2009 and everyone ends up at paul's house. we tell the story about how the two-bedroom home along the rain avenue on the west side of cleveland is crawling with people, pa view is fair with 12 of his grandkids. so that was a real protect good thing. we can contrast that to the story of what happened to jennifer her name does when she doubled up with a relative in texas where she had grown up as a child and her mother had grown up engine affair has to end in
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disaster because often times with sordid seals your fate as a $2 a day per person if you've got some dysfunction in your family not work and that is part of this noxious to that creates a disadvantage. anyways, in jennifer's case her beautiful little girl ends up being molested by george n. they fully to a goodwill that makes the bedroom for them out of an office. they go to the police and of course the entire family turns their back on jennifer for reporting this uncle, you know, who manages a country club.
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she broke the family have. we see a similar story with madonna harris and her little girl, briand at doubled up with her mother and she has a foster sister and grin and sat in a psychiatric ward after this other little girl -- it is so humiliating to be this poor. little briand on -- breanna was so ashamed. there were so many times. they have been in shelters for three years before they landed the situation that when this cousin taunts her and ridicules her again and again, she loses that nsf spending a month in a psychiatric hospital. >> host: one of the things i found heart wrenching ends when
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the mother had a much younger boyfriend, husband and a much younger wife and has been was an abusive partner and made her choose between him and one of her other kids they made the mom put her daughter out. >> guest: this is the story of tabitha who is the star of the book in many ways. she is an exceptional 18-year-old was incapacitated to think and reflect on her situation in ways you almost never see. ..
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you'll notice that half of the windows are boarded out. whenever they lock him out he stomps and comes in. the kids are really trying to defend their mother against cliff, and one day a big fight breaks out and they run to this sort of convenience store, liquor store. he chases her and the kids follow. there's a confrontation between tabatha.
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cliff says to all of them, you have to choose. and alba says, why don't you go with a friend of yours for a while. >> host: i could tell you that when you talk about the need for money, rent is one of the things you can't pay for -- >> guest: that's right. >> host: you can't pay without money. you start talking about a lot of your passions with your research in the projects. and, of course, a lot of us about caring of the so-called projects. >> guest: right. >> host: but we are now experiencing affordable housing, and not only that, your book
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talks about 1990-2013 rent grew faster than inflation and every region of the country by 6% income drop by 13%, the housing and urban developing that we should spend no more than 30% on housing, i guess that would include electricity and so forth. even those not spending $2 per day spend 50% of income on housing. just by definition, people who have no money are at risk for being homeless, for having to double up with unscrew-- unscups relatives and coach to
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couch to couch. that is real trouble having just solid housing so that when you are part of the 2-dollar per person group, housing becomes a major struggle and the ability to protect your family, because toggle. just having to get to work. what's your address? >> guest: we have a chapter as you know a room of one film, it is what ray dreams of for her little daughter. she fantasizes. dora do explorer room with the princess bed and special
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blankets, this is her fantasy. it is true that rents have risen, the affordability crisis is about falling wages as it is about rises rents, the combination of the two is really toxic for families. so, you know, to describe what ray was living with in the book, of course, we've been in touch with her since -- let me try to paint to picture. she's living in a neighborhood in cleveland called stockton. the house that they rented from landlord was completely strip from most of its wiring and
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copper pipes in the time between the old tenants moving in. they moved in not quite realizing that they were desperate and the landlord, of course, refused to fix anything. so you have ray and her little daughter, you have george, this sort of kind of unscupulous guy that collects their checks in return, kind of bringing ssi. >> poor people become victims to real predators. landlord, employers. >> guest: right. >> host: some culture of people that take advantage of how
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vulnerable people with no money are. >> guest: yes, he's with george and wife camila which is a chain smoker. [laughs] >> guest: very sad story, young disabled couple. there's two stray boys who mother drops them off for a play date and doesn't come back. there's no running water so they have to run to the basement to haul up water from a broken pipe. there's one outlet that runs. creating incredible fire hazard. so, yes, exactly. it's a kind of -- kind of mutual explotatio nu.
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the way to get by is kind of the opposite of the image of the happy, poor that are sharing and supporting. it's a much darker picture than that. >> host: i want to think about where we are and talk about character. you know, it was amazing to me that you developed enough trust and confidence with many of the people who admit that they participated in an informal economy and did things that were, you know, inmoral and of course, that sort of tracks with what a lot of people think about
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poor people anyway, that they are -- that they are lacking in character. and i was wondering, why we shouldn't judge them and say that it's their lack of personal responsibility and character that got them in this situation in the first place. i mean, how do we connect their worthiness with their behavior? >> guest: one thing the book does that you don't often see, we follow the families for years each. [laughs] >> guest: incredible intense experience during research and incredible privilege, frankly. but by sort of seeing these people as people over a long period of time, it really allows you to understand the conditions under which they were willing to do something. so you saw, for example, that
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janey fernández will send food stamps. lives would be turned out. the only time they sold food stamps for the hungriest peoples was when they had to pay to keep electricity. living without power in that kind of environment is not safe specially when you have young children at home. so this is a very important to the narrative because you don't want to -- you know, you don't want to take your subject worth face value. you need to watch and observe and ask the questions that you know, you know, people watching
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c-span or, you know, we've got fox news in the building or msnbc. you need to explore and live life with these folks. and i think, in the end the reader can judge for themselves because they learn about of all these people. my sense as a researcher was coming from a profound sense for the grace of god. of course, i would do these things if i had to ensure that my child, you know, wasn't ridiculed at school. >> right. exactly. well, i could tell you that, you know, some of the things that struck me were the conclusions
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that you reached. you know, obviously you thought that creation was very important and, of course, politicians say we need to create jobs, obviously raising the minimum wage, is an obvious sort of solution, and your book really recite those data to do that. >> guest: right. >> host: many don't have the skill set quite frankly to take on the economy. you talked about the -- the situation in the delta and talked about how there's a lot of automated agricultural techniques so a lot of the jobs
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have been lost to technology and it wasn't just that there were individual families, the entire community by thirst of jobs and money within that community. so i guess -- i guess there are a couple of -- what do you suggest. i guess the conclusion you reach is we shouldn't go back -- >> guest: that's right. >> host: you were critical starting from ronald regan to ending welfare in 1996, you were very critical of people who you say didn't reform welfare. they killed it. >> guest: they did, indeed. >> host: you don't have a social net with money, but then you say, we shouldn't go back to
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afdc. >> guest: so i think we learned a fundamental truth by talking to these people, hearing how they think about the world. we do sort of pin the rise poverty on welfare reform. but none of our respondents think it's going to work. it also -- it kind of made a burr gain -- bargain with people at the bottom. if you engage in personal responsibility, we'll give you the work opportunity. so as we showed, people have entered the labor market. they fulfilled their part of the bargain but we have an
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unfinished revolution. there's simply not enough work to go around not even chicago which is a book town compared to mississippi. there's not enough work in tennessee. automation is likely to make this worst. so when a lot of economists look at this, they say, well, we need to create a really rich unemployment system. but it seems to us that that went against what our correspondents wanted. they wanted to work even if mary can't stand on her feet for more than 20 minutes. she wants a job, you know. if you look around, even though these folks are low-skilled,
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there's so much work to be done. now, we don't have enough afterschool programs. our streets are full of litter. the parks are not kept up. the national parks aren't able to open all year long. we can't open our recreation centers, so what we really call for is a radical thinking what it means to guaranty work opportunity. we think that given american culture, given the fact that we're in a country where work equals citizenship, that we need to find ways of connecting people with opportunities. >> host: the work programs that we saw factor in the depression? >> guest: that's right. that's right. can we think about ways either through stimulating employers,
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how you can stimulate the private sector and the public sector, that every american who wants to work can get a job. now, when you say, you know, we need a safety net. there will be times somebody won't work for some reason. so we need to restore taniff as a responsive short-term way to address some of the conditions we see. >> host: with all of the complaints that people had about asdc, it was a safety net that worked like food stamps or snap work that during the great recession, that's the time when we should have expected to go up
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and they didn't. one of the reason that is you really raised in your book is that we provide a credit of 16 and a half billion dollars for taniff because of the so-called flexibility, 11 billion, did i read this right, $11 billion goes towards that flexible. and so there's a real incentive not to actually provide the money to the poor. >> guest: that's right. >> host: you can balance the state budget with the $11 billion. you can assure child care system, lead to finding a job, you can -- you can use this flexibility in ways -- and just simply diverse the poor away
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from the benefits that they -- thank you for writing this book. i guess i wanted you to sort of wrap it up, i really commend this book to those in the audience and specially to those people who are truly in search for a model that pa -- poverty. if they could get up, they could find work. sometimes there's no work. when there is work, it pays sub standard wages. it wasn't provide the work protection and our housing policy really needs to be set. i just want to make sure professor in the last few
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minutes that we have together that you share with me any, you know, the take aways that we ought to get from this book that will help us and help me, people like me with -- with developing public policy going forward. we're probably going to reauthorize taniff. what would you put out there as some of the name guide posts that we ought to do? >> guest: well, first the biggest prove of the dignity of these folks that they do refuse to take taniff even though they are eligible. they are too proud to go to taniff. i think that's really something that they work is so important that they can't sacrifice this worker identity and go stand in that line that i sat in with
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madonna harris as she was convinced that they didn't give it out anymore. we have an unfinished revolution. welfare reform put people to work. that's a good thing. that's a very good thing. the people themselves said that's a very good thing. but because of changes in the market that maybe -- the crafters of welfare reform couldn't have foreseen, a lot that has happened to the labor market is new. we have the rising group of children. if you kind of add it all up and you look at how children in america are spending four months in the calendar year in this condition, you know it's 3.3 million. that's as many children we rescue from poverty with tax credits. it's a big group of kids. given the stories in the book, what families have to go through when they're in that condition, likely going to be a very expensive group of children
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moving forward. so we have to do something but we have to pay attention to what -- what the poor want more than anything else. and really are modest. 12-$13 an hour, a job you can count on, full-time hours. they didn't think about personal days. they didn't have a job like that. what they want is modest. if somebody was willing to work and play by the books, shouldn't they have the opportunity to achieve that modest dream. >> host: thank you so much. again, i cannot stop thanking you. i will be quoting over and over again $2 a day and one of the things that you said that, you know, we out it to their
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children because it's going to cost us so much more to not provide these kids with parents who have the capacity to parent them. tbes guest -- >> guest: yeah, right. >> host: it's a lot more expensive. thanks. >> guest: my pleasure. >> that was afterwards book tv signature program, nonfiction books are interviewed by policymakers and others familiar with their material. afterwords at 10:00 p.m. and
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12:00 a.m. on monday. you can go on line and and click on book tv series on the upper right side of the page. were 21 years ago i wrote a piece in the city journal that was titled the knife went in. and it was a curious phenomena which i noticeed in the prison that i oh worked. all murderers that stabbed someone today the knife went in. and i thought that this was a curious way of describing what had happened implying that he did that the knife has a volition of its own. and my wife first said, my wife
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thought, who is also a doctor, that i was exaggerating, which i would never exaggerate. [laughs] >> one day she was in her clinic and she had a patient and it was a lady and she said, she asked about her husband and she said, the knife went in. and she realized that i hasn't been exaggerating. now this way of putting it is cig -- significant. at least i thought it was significant. suggested that the perpetrator was distancing himself from house own and responsibility for it. he was telling in some kind of natural event rather like an eruption, for example, rather than a


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